We want to thank everyone who submitted an entry for our Mother’s Day Essay Contest. It was so hard choosing winners from all of the wonderful submissions.
1st Place – Jessica
Olympus Day Spa Essay Contest 2020 – My Mother: The Overcomer
As a nurse, I have encountered many strong people in my life. My Mother, however, is the strongest, most courageous person that I have ever met. She has always been there, not only for me but for so many others. She helped raise her younger sister, and left home at a young age. She started working with people with severe disabilities at the age of 18. She went on to become a special education teacher, and taught preschool and kindergarten for 40+ years, while also earning her master’s degree. She served her students, their families, her church, and the local Girl Scouts for years. There was never a time that she did anything for herself, her life has always been about giving to and inspiring others. She encountered so many difficult, heartbreaking situations over the years that would emotionally crush so many, but it never stopped her from pursuing to help as many people as she could throughout her life. As a mother, she raised both my brother and me with little support from our father. She embodied unconditional love, and was an exemplary role model who taught my brother and I the morals and values we needed to become who we are today. We both grew to become hospice nurses, and she filled us with so much love and gratitude that it could overflow to others like her love and grace always did. She was always there, working hard to provide for us, while never missing a game or anything of importance to us. We never missed a meal. I honestly don’t know how she did it – she never gave up, and still ceases to do so. Four years ago, my mother was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. She fought, and fought, and continues to fight. She endured an ankle surgery, a knee surgery, two major abdominal surgeries, and rounds and rounds of chemotherapy over the past few years. She met many beautiful souls along the way battling her same form of cancer, which all have since passed, but she remains. My mother is a true superhero, an overcomer. She is a shining star, a guiding light. She never complains, but smiles through her pain. She is full of grace and beauty. Her favorite song is “keep on the sunny side” by June Carter Cash. My mother is bright like sunshine, and gives warm hugs. She is peaceful like a panda, strong like a dragon, protective like a tiger, and someday a white heron will carry her soul to Heaven. But until then, she will not give up, and this is why MY MOTHER IS MY FOREVER INSPIRATION.
2nd Place – Hannha
Thanks to Mom, We All Lived Happily Ever After
“Come on, it’s story time,” Mom calls, doing a little dance as she heads to her room, book in hand. We drop our colored pencils, stuffed dogs, and cardboard creations and chase after her, a race to see who will get the best spot in bed. Inevitably, there is a shuffle, someone steps on someone else’s head, and then we all dive under the purple quilt—giggling. No matter how fast my older brother and I ran, my youngest brother always got the spot squeezed between Mom and Dad; he was the smallest and would contribute the least width. I usually sat at my parent’s feet, the flexible one to wrap around the bony ankles. This arrangement left the oldest sibling to balance on the mere sliver of space left on the lip of the mattress, smiling and giggling just the same. Dad’s body stretched from the headboard to the end of the mattress—the crevasse that consumed all of Mom’s socks that she knocked off during the night. I share this trait with Mom and always placed my icy feet against Dad’s warm fuzzy legs. Then there was the sound of a turning page and Mom would transform into a hobbit or wizard, park ranger or wild animal, treasonous faun or prophesied child.
Mom is the best storyteller I have ever met. During my childhood, story time in Mom and Dad’s bed was a nightly occurrence. It brought our family close together. As I got older, Mom’s gift of story matured with her children and our needs. Through her actions, she established who she was at her core—a fun and adventurous person who was willing to sacrifice so much for me. I thank my Mom for taking the time to nurture us the way she did, sacrificing her time to build us into creative, loving, committed, ambitious human beings. I treasure these memories; they opened up my mind to endless possibilities and inspired me to take the path I now find myself on.
My path started with me hating writing during elementary school; I found it tedious and exhausting. However, Mom stuck with me and continued to cultivate my education and pushed me to reach my full potential. Now I am a novelist and poet, writing day in and day out. I love writing because it gives me the ability to express emotion and burn darkness with the light that lies beside every shadow. The sound of my mother’s voice through the purple quilt that I was doing my best to not fall asleep under now inspires my own narratives and chronicles. Mom, an avid storyteller, uses her gift as she continues to inspire me in every aspect of my life.
In addition to our bedtime assembly, my parents valued adventure and hands-on learning throughout my childhood, which sometimes got us into some tight situations. Whether our car was being bashed by bison, or we were trudging through an island we were stranded on due to a storm in the South Pacific, Mom always said, “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make a great story later.” Mom inspired me to stay optimistic and never turn down an opportunity out of fear. Today, I am not afraid to raise my voice in a crowd or step up to the plate when it means promoting a world I believe in, even if others warn me of opposition or try to take me down with fear.
I wasn’t always so bold, and Mom’s stories impacted me the most during my early teen years, when I was in constant crisis and questioned every choice I had ever made. Even after multiple nights of waking her at 3am, sobbing and rarely speaking a coherent sentence, Mom would wrap me in her arms and tell me stories about her own teen years and missteps. Mom was never afraid to be human with me. She demonstrated that mistakes do not define us; in fact, it is okay to make errors and we are sometimes better for it. I remember being so shocked that someone so wonderful could have gotten herself into so much mischief when she was my age. I was also relieved that there was still hope for me to be half as great as she was. As I have grown older, Mom has continued to be vulnerable and tell me her stories, teaching me that it is okay when everything doesn’t go as planned in school, work, faith, and even love.
To carry on her example, I am inspired to be an understanding and encouraging mom as well. In that role, I will tell my children stories of my mother, of the adventures she took us on, and of the lessons she taught me. I will have my own stories with which to encourage my children. When reading bedtime stories to my own tousled haired kiddos, I will hold them close to my heart just as Mom held me close to hers.
It is these memories, these moments, I cling to because they encapsulate the true nature of my mother. Mom continues to inspire me even as we currently wrestle with the abrasion that comes with the transition to an adult-adult relationship. Mom inspires me to new revelations of forgiveness and other such foundations of human life. Even when Mom and I are passing through darker times in our relationship, I know to cling to who a person truly is at their core rather than who they are showing in that moment. If we cling to someone’s core and true personality, then we won’t miss the chance of seeing it again when we make it to the other side of whatever conflict we are going through. However, if we cling to the wounded version of themselves that they may be showing at a given time, when they are ready to return to their true nature our hands will be so bloodied for our grip on the darkness that they exposed that we will forever miss out on the opportunity to live again that beautiful relationship. We will spend the rest of our lives pining for a relationship that lies just at our fingertips. That is why forgiveness, along with all the other lessons Mom has taught me, is so important. Whenever Mom and I find ourselves in disagreement, I embrace the love of bedtime stories and blood curdling adventures and tear-stained nights. I embrace forgiveness. I embrace my mom.
3rd Place – Stephanie
I’m a high school teacher and whenever I ask my students who their heroes are, half of them always respond with “my mom.” I get it—my mom, Carla, is my hero too. To me her heroism is not shown through huge, dramatic acts, but rather her consistent resilience and warm, giving heart.
My mom’s childhood was not easy. Her dad left when she was young and her mom was an abusive person who struggled with alcoholism, which made my mom grow up very fast in order to help care for her younger siblings. Her sister once told me that some of her earliest memories were of my mom, too young and short to reach the counter yet, standing on a step stool to cook her dinner. That’s who my mom still is today—someone who sees a person in need and immediately steps in to help them. Someone who doesn’t ever give up. Someone who doesn’t need validation from others to consistently do the right, hard thing.
I am one of four kids and my mom worked as a waitress the entire time we were growing up. My dad would work the day shift at his job and my mom would work the night shift at her restaurant so that we always had a parent around to watch us. My mom would cook dinner for us every day at 4:00 PM so that we could all sit down as a family before she headed off to work. As an adult now, I can’t imagine how hard that schedule must have been for them, but I never felt the burden as a kid because our house was always full of warmth and laughter.
When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years back, she continued to work every day during her treatment. She would get radiation therapy upstairs in the hospital and then go downstairs to work at her current job in food service at the same hospital. She’s the most hardworking, uncomplaining, resilient person I know. No matter how hard things get, she is always the first person to crack a hilarious joke.
She’s the glue of our ever-expanding family. Being able to see my mom in her new role as grandma to my nieces and nephew has made me remember the millions of small loving acts she did for us every day growing up, from cutting our sandwiches into small squares to patiently teaching us how to read to getting down on the floor to roll around and play with us. She’s in her sixties now, but she’s still more energetic and full of life than anyone I know my age.
Now, my mom continues to inspire me as she goes to work every day in the hospital, providing food for patients and staff in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It fills me with worry to think about my sweet mom being in such close contact to the virus, but she brushed me off last time I talked to her. “Someone has to feed these folks,” she told me cheerfully. “Might as well be me!”
To me, there’s no clearer example of heroism than that.